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One movie, two scores - and it's not the one which was ultimately in the film which provides the entertainment here
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
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Unused score composed and conducted by
Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 2008 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc.; review copyright (c) 2008 James Southall
A black comedy about warring neighbours (I make no apology for the spelling), John Belushi played a quiet man whose life was upturned when noisy miscreants (including Dan Aykroyd) moved in next door. Belushi was virtually on another planet when the film was made, and it turned out to be his last; and not one that lingers long in the memory (apart from its star's uncanny resemblance to Bernard Herrmann in his old-fashioned suit).
Director John G. Avildsen worked with Bill Conti whenever he could (including on Rocky) and the composer ended up scoring Neighbours, though not before Tom Scott's score was rejected. Both scores are presented on this CD from the Varese Sarabande CD Club. Conti scores the film like a cartoon, literally with bells and whistles (he says in the liner notes "We threw in everything but the kitchen sink, and then we threw in the kitchen sink") - the maxim here is that no good idea lasts more than five seconds, as the music flits about from one place to a completely different one on a constant basis.
As ever with these things, it must have been tremendously hard to pull off - and it's frankly unbelievable that Conti managed it in the seven days he had to score the picture - but good luck listening to it, because it's one frustrating experience. There are so many good ideas in it, but Conti has no time to explore any of them, moving on constantly to new things. There are nice little nods to other things - The Twilight Zone, Psycho - and some really neat little touches from Conti throughout. It's just not music that's designed to be heard away from the film. The best piece is the madcap march for the end credits, the only part of the score where the music is allowed to breathe by itself - and it's wonderful.
On the other hand, Tom Scott's rejected score - thrown out because it made a film that's already not very funny, almost deadly serious - is the other way around. Not right for the film, but more satisfying away from it. Scott is better-known as an accomplished musician than a film composer, though he has scored a few films over the years (most notably perhaps Conquest of the Planet of the Apes) - he was hired for Neighbours by his friend Belushi, determined to take control of every aspect of the film. Scott's bleak music belongs in a 1950s film noir, perhaps one directed by Alfred Hitchcock (there are certainly some Herrmannesque flourishes here). It's terrific music, and on CD at least it overshadows the music which replaced it.
Julie Kirgo's liner notes are typically engaging, featuring new interview material with Conti, and while his score is not the most entertaining on album, it certainly provides ample evidence of its composer's musicianship; and Scott's unused score is a real treat. So - despite the flaws - this is an interesting album which is worth having, for curiosity's sake as far as the Conti music is concerned, but the Scott music is really very fine on its own terms. (Those who were hoping this was the music from the Australian soap opera Neighbours - which frankly hasn't been the same since Jim Robinson left to go on 24 and Lost - will have to keep on biding their time.)